Test prep in education: Making opportunities accessible to all

Summarized below is the first-person account of the journeys of the founders of Avanti, Edutel and Online Tyari. The founders talk about how their ideas fructified and what it takes to run scalable, sustainable businesses while maximizing social impact.

As social innovators operating in the online coaching and test preparation domains, these organizations are at the forefront of providing exemplary and cost-effective test-preparation models (both online and in classrooms) to students across the country.

Necessity is the mother of invention

The three social entrepreneurs highlight how their formative years gave them a glimpse into an issue that was to later fuel their desire to harness technology for social change

Harsha Mahabala (Edutel): “Hailing from a rural background ourselves, Soorya K N, co-founder, Edutel and I were acutely aware of the differences in quality of education between educational institutions in towns and villages. Both of us combined the idea of using a projector with multimedia storage and satellite bandwidth to enable teachers in cities to take classes from studios that could be relayed to a large number of students in remote classrooms of distant villages.”

Bhola Meena (Online Tyari): “Coming from small town, I saw many of my friends prepare for government jobs but until as recently as 2013-14, there was no organized way of preparing for these exams and students depended on local coaching centres. I realized that technology could be a huge enabler and could benefit the coaching and job preparation market.”

Krishna Ramkumar (Avanti): “Most of my friends in IIT came from urban middle-class families as they had access to expensive coaching. I wanted to set up an organization to create a more level playing for students across income strata aspiring to get into top colleges. That’s how the idea to build a technology product that could make quality coaching more accessible and affordable originated.”

Making opportunities accessible to all

The ability to scale-up a successful business models is key to ensuring that high quality services can be accessed by all

Harsha: “From about 120 centres in 2010, our technology and services are reaching over 2800 classrooms across Karnataka today, benefitting over a million students from Grade 5 to 12 as well as undergraduate students in college. We are now replicating and scaling this model in other states.”

Krishna: “Our unique approach allows us to scale relatively quickly without compromising on the quality of student outcomes. From 150 students in 3 cities in our first year, we teach 3,500 students in 18 locations across 7 states today.”

Establishing credibility for their proofs of concept

The entrepreneurs show us how they overcame early hurdles using skill and perseverance and ensured that their respective concepts gained acceptance with key stakeholders

Bhola: “Our initial problems were related to attracting suitable talent and getting access to capital. Executing a unique business model that had never been attempted before was our biggest challenge.”

Krishna: “Hiring was our biggest challenge initially. Hence, we had to work really hard to build a brand in college campuses and attract young people to join us.”

The motivation for success comes from being a change-agent

The impact on beneficiaries and the trust placed by them is a strong catalyst for continuing passion and working towards future success and growth 

Harsha: “We are motivated by the stories of students from remote villages who write in to us telling us how we have helped them understand complex subjects better or about how they’re keen to pursue higher studies.”

Bhola: “Online Tyari is used by lakhs of students each day and they are betting their future on us. Their trust and dependency on OnlineTyari is my primary motivation.”

Krishna: “One of our earliest success stories was that of Ayush Sharma, a government school student from Kanpur who got admitted to MIT on a full scholarship. This year, I am inspired by one of our students, Rushikesh who grew up in a small town in rural Maharashtra who moved to Mumbai in Class XI to prepare with us. After two years of hard work and sacrifice, he qualified for the IIT entrance exam with a top rank.”

We are motivated by the stories of students from remote villages who write in to us telling us how we have helped them understand complex subjects better or about how they’re keen to pursue higher studies.

The sky is the limit

While they talk about achieving sky high growth, the three entrepreneurs remain committed to creating an enabling ecosystem; one that ensures that students across the spectrum continue accessing and benefiting from their platforms

Harsha: “The vision of Edutel is to provide ‘A true guru for every child.’ As of May 2017, we impacted over a million students in Karnataka. Our next goal is to reach a billion students across India through the effective use of affordable and scalable technology.”

Bhola: “I want to make OnlineTyari the default platform for any test preparation across the world, offering the best content at affordable prices.”

Krishna: “Our vision is to provide a high-quality math and science education in every district in our country.”

The test prep market continues to evolve and present new opportunities for entry of students from all sections of the society into the fast-growing knowledge economy of India. The potential is huge and we are just getting started!

Other blogs in this series:

Test prep in education: Helping students gain new opportunities 

Test prep in education: Creating a level playing field